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Man, drones team up in first ever inspection at oil refinery

BATON ROUGE, March 2, 2021

Premium Inspection & Testing (PIT) conducted a first-of-its-kind internal coke drum inspection at an oil refinery using a combination of drone technology and manned rope access, resulting in $250,000 in savings for its client.
 
Inspection experts from PIT were recently asked to conduct an internal inspection of a coke drum at an oil refinery in Texas without using scaffolding. 
 
Scaffolding is typically constructed for inspectors to stand on so that they can see the areas they are inspecting up close. Because scaffolding is expensive and time-consuming to put up and take down, personnel at the refinery were hoping to avoid using it.
 
Inspectors from PIT proposed using a method that had never been tried before for this kind of inspection: a combination of drone technology and manned rope access within the coke drum.
 
“Premium has years of experience performing inspections via rope access, having clocked a total of 2.2 million safe hours on ropes with zero accidents,” says Danny Landry, Premium’s VP of Business Development & Marketing. “We also have deep experience using drones to collect visual data for inspections, so we were excited to agree to take on the job without building scaffolding.”
 
The drone used in the inspection was Flyability’s Elios 2, which has a unique cage design that was created specifically for inspections in confined spaces. For the rope access part of the inspection, PIT used its internal team of certified inspectors, who have years of experience rappelling and climbing inside various types of assets for the purposes of conducting inspections.
 
Having 360 degree access by ropes meant the PIT team could collect more data than if they were standing on scaffolding. “When using scaffolding, you only get about 25 per cent inspection coverage on an asset. But with a combination of drone and rope access, you get about 95 per cent coverage,” Landry says.
 
For the coker inspection, the PIT team used the Elios 2 to collect visual data inside the coker, which was used to make sure it was clean and safe for the ropes team to enter. The drone’s visual data was also processed by automated crack detection algorithms, helping to pinpoint possible defects within the coker that the ropes team could investigate further.
 
Next, the ropes team set up and entered the coker, executing a variety of inspection tests that could only be performed in person, including a phased array test and a liquid penetrant test.
 
Premium’s hybrid drone/rope access approach to the internal coker inspection ultimately saved the refinery $250,000 from not having to pay for temporary scaffolding. This novel drones and rope access approach also significantly reduced downtimes for the coker, cutting time needed for the inspection from 30 days to just 7 days, which helped the refinery realize even further savings. –Tradearabia News Service



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